Report Launch | Making Politics Work for Development
October 4, 2016Washington, D.C.

Too often, even reform leaders in countries fail to adopt and implement policies that they know are necessary for sustained economic development. They are encumbered by adverse political incentives, running the risk of losing office should they try to do the right thing. When technically sound policies are selected on paper, implementation through the public system can run into perverse behavioral norms among public officials and citizens to extract private benefits from the public sector at the expense of the greater public interest. 

This Policy Research Report is about how two forces—citizen engagement and transparency in political processes—can explain and hold the potential to improve political incentives and behavioral norms in the public sector. A global shift in political institutions is providing space for greater political engagement, defined as the participation of citizens in selecting and sanctioning the leaders who wield power in government, including by entering themselves as contenders for leadership. At the same time, disclosure policies, new technologies, and dynamic media markets are contributing to greater transparency, defined as citizen access to publicly available information about the actions of those in government, and the consequences of those actions. 

The research shows that the confluence of transparency and political engagement can be a driving force for countries to transition toward better-functioning public sector institutions, starting with their own initial and contextual conditions. But good outcomes are far from guaranteed, with many risks of unhealthy political engagement by citizens and repressive responses by leaders. To harness the potential of these forces, this report offers ideas for policy actors to target transparency to improve the quality of political engagement so that citizens can hold leaders accountable for the public goods needed for development. 

Last Updated: Aug 17, 2016

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    Stuti Khemani, Senior Economist, Development Research Group, World Bank Group

    Stuti Khemani is a Senior Economist in the Development Research Group of the World Bank. She joined through the Young Professionals Program after obtaining a PhD in Economics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Her area of research is the political economy of public policy choices, and institutional reforms for development. Her work is published in leading economics and political science journals, such as the American Economic Journal, Journal of Development Economics and American Political Science Review. She has studied the impact of electoral politics on fiscal policy and intergovernmental fiscal relations; drawn policy implications for the design of institutions to promote fiscal responsibility; and analyzed political constraints to efficient allocation of resources for health and education services. She is currently examining the role of mass media and local elections in building effective public sector institutions. She is also the lead author of the forthcoming Policy Research Report Making Politics Work for Development: Harnessing Transparency and Citizen Engagement. Her research and advisory work spans a diverse range of countries, including Benin, China, India, the Philippines, Nigeria, Tanzania and Uganda.
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    Joel Hellman, Dean of the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University

    As both a scholar and practitioner, Dr. Joel Hellman brings to Georgetown a unique and valuable perspective from his work on issues of governance, conflict and the political economy of development around the world. He joins the School of Foreign Service following 15 years of service at the World Bank, where he most recently served as Chief Institutional Economist and previously led its engagement with fragile and conflict-affected states as Director of the Center on Conflict, Security and Development in Nairobi, Kenya. Prior to that, he was Manager, Governance and Public Sector Group, South Asia Region, in New Delhi. As a development practitioner, he coordinated the Bank’s response to broad and deep complex global challenges such as the tsunami in Aceh and North Sumatra. Prior to the World Bank, he served as the Senior Political Counselor at the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development in London, U.K.
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    Monica Arruda, Adjunct Professor, Center for Latin American Studies (CLAS), Georgetown University

    Monica Arruda de Almeida is an adjunct professor at the Center for Latin American Studies (CLAS) at Georgetown University. Her research focus is on illicit economies, with an emphasis on anti-money laundering efforts. From 2005 to 2008, she was a faculty fellow at the University of California, Los Angeles. She was affiliated with the Department of Political Science and with U.C.L.A.’s International Institute, where she taught upper-level courses on international political economy and global governance, covering both developing and advanced societies. Dr. Arruda was born and raised in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where she worked as a journalist for daily newspapers and editor for institutional publications. She has a B.A. in Communications Studies from the State University of Rio de Janeiro, and a M.A. and a Ph.D. in International Political Economy from UCLA. Dr. Arruda has published articles on anti-money laundering regulations, corruption, international trade, and the political economy of Brazil’s economic liberalization.
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    James Habyarimana, Provost's Distinguished Associate Professor, Georgetown University

    James Habyarimana joined the McCourt School Public Policy in 2004 after completing doctoral studies at Harvard University. His main research interests are in Development Economics and Political Economy. In particular he is interested in understanding the issues and constraints in health, education and the private sectors in developing countries. In health he is working on understanding the impact of policy responses to the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Africa and evaluating a number of health improving interventions in road safety and water, sanitation and hygiene. In education, his work focuses on identifying programs and policies to improve access and quality of secondary schooling. His primary regional focus is Africa. He has been a non-resident fellow at the Center for Global Development. At the McCourt School, James teaches the second course in regression methods and courses on the history of development and education and health policy in developing countries.
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    Irfan Nooruddin, Professor of Indian Politics, Georgetown University

    Irfan Nooruddin is Professor in the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown, and is a member of the School’s Asian Studies Program. He is the author of Coalition Politics and Economic Development: Credibility and the Strength of Weak Governments (Cambridge, 2011). Professor Nooruddin’s specializes in the study of comparative economic development and policymaking, democratization and democratic institutions, and international institutions. He has been a Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, DC, and is a Team Member with Lokniti: Programme on Comparative Democracy at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, New Delhi.
Event Details
  • Time: 3:00 – 4:30 PM, October 4, 2016
  • Location: Intercultural Center (ICC) Auditorium, Georgetown University
  • CONTACT: Emily Paragamian


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